Robert Garrett of the Dallas Morning News and Jason Embry in the Statesman picked up a post from the North Texas Tea Party blog on Lieutenant Governor David Dewhurst skipping candidate forums across the state. I tweeted out the same thing at the Austin EmpowerTexans/9-12 candidate forum last Saturday night. I was surprised not to see Lt Governor Dewhurst there. It seems to me like a strange strategic decision to skip candidate forums.
They’re playing a dangerous game by letting a narrative take hold that could be quite dangerous for them. When Dewhurst is absent, people get a chance to repeat all the things that they might otherwise just whisper: Dewhurst is…establishment, aloof, moderate, out-of-touch, elitist, not a man of the people, thinks he can buy the election, etc. Some of those might not be fair, but that’s not the point — when you don’t show up, people say them. Then they get repeated and become conventional wisdom.
My sense is that Dewhurst and his team probably see these forums as an annoyance. Many of the candidate forums include straw polls, and it is very unlikely that Dewhurst would win any of the straw polls among party activists. Many of the folks there have already picked a candidate, and it’s usually not Dewhurst. If Dewhurst showed up, he might even be the target of attacks from the other candidates (right now the candidates seem to be aiming their barbs at Ted Cruz, the other perceived front runner), but that is essentially the nature of the race.
Contrast Dewhurst with Tom Leppert. The former mayor of Dallas consistently shows up. He never does well in the straw polls — frequently getting just a solitary vote or two — but at least he is there. If the race were to end up Dewhurst v Leppert in a runoff, I imagine plenty of activists will remember who showed up at their forum and said the right things.
Will it matter? Only time will tell.